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Blues add Peter Chiarelli, Ken Hitchcock to hockey operations staff

The move has puzzled fans, and that’s putting it lightly.

2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Practice Day & Family Skate Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

It started with a tweet from Frank Seravalli:

By “it” I mean puzzlement, confusion, trepidation - bust out the thesaurus and look up “unhappy” and there’s your description of Blues fans on social media. There was some hope that somehow, a journalist who is rarely wrong was mistaken.

Nope, he was not. The Blues made it Twitter official a few hours later:

Ken Hitchcock coached the Blues from November of 2011 to February 2017. He won the Jack Adams in 2012, and helped guide the team to the 2016 Western Conference Final. He was fired in 2017 after an extended stretch of uninspired play from the Blues. After his tenure with St. Louis, he returned to coach with the Dallas Stars for a season before finishing his career in Edmonton in 2018. He was hired by Peter Chiarelli, and finished his career as the third winningest coach in NHL history.

Chiarelli is best known for being the general manager who put together the Boston Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup winning team, and also for guiding the Edmonton Oilers through just under four years of questionable hockey. How questionable? Mehtab Singh Bains over at The Hockey Writers put together a top ten list of Chiarelli’s worst moves as Oilers GM, and it’s a doozy. It’s hard to pick a favorite mis-evaluation, but mine was shipping Justin Schultz off to the Penguins for a third-round pick. Or maybe it’s when Chiarelli dealt Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. Maybe it’s all of the faith he put in Milan Lucic at the twilight of Lucic’s career. No, I think it’s Taylor Hall being traded for Adam Larsson.

Despite having numerous top level draft picks over the past decade or so, including Hall, Eberle, and Connor McDavid, the only remaining ones are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, and Connor McDavid. The Oilers made the playoffs just once in Chiarelli’s tenure, making it to the second round in 2017. That was also the only season where they finished over .500.

Why did Doug Armstrong bring aboard a GM that hasn’t had a successful season for years, and a coach who is noted for both results and smothering young players?

Chiarelli is now VP of Hockey Operations, and Hitchcock is a coaching consultant for a staff that includes Craig Berube and Steve Ott. It’s tempting to look at the laundry list of achievements that the Blues included in their announcement of the hire and think “oh, ok, someone with pedigree. This is a good idea.” It’s tempting to do the same with Hitchcock, and it’s very easy to associate him with successful seasons in St. Louis. Both men have Stanley Cup rings, so clearly they have had good track records at some point in their career. Hitchcock especially has a reputation as a fixer and as someone who can jerk a knot in players’ asses. After the Blues’ last two seasons, something does need to be fixed.

There’s pedigree, and there’s being a good fit. After Chiarelli’s disastrous tenure with the Oilers and Hitchcock’s ignominious career wind-down in Dallas and Edmonton, most Blues fans are wondering what exactly Doug Armstrong sees the two men bringing to the team. Armstrong notably has a relationship with Hitchcock going back to the days that they won the Cup with Dallas.

It’s worth remembering that while Stanley Cup pedigree is valuable, so is being the right hire for the right team at the right time.